I know we don’t know each other very well, but do you mind if I give you some feedback?
Well, I don’t know how to put this. It’s never easy to talk about. Uhm, I’ll just cut to the chase…
You suck at giving feedback.
Look, it’s not just you. Most managers are pretty terrible at it. Still, you can do better and you should work on it.
Ok? Great. Well then…good chat.
Oh yeah, your coaching stinks too, but we can talk about that later.
Ugh. Sound familiar? Most of us have had a few of these conversations with a boss throughout our careers. There is something our manager wants us to get better at, and they awkwardly stumble through giving us feedback on our performance. They are either too direct or too soft. So blunt that they trigger defensiveness in us, or so indirect that they outright confuse us. They lack details and examples. They don’t help us to see a clear path to improvement.
We leave the conversation feeling sad, pissed off, and perplexed. We don’t improve, and our relationship with our manager is often damaged.
The irony is that while this example is horribly executed, at least it’s feedback!
Most of the time, managers just avoid the discomfort of performance feedback altogether. If you are lucky, they might comment on things you are doing well, but you rarely get constructive feedback and coaching. Consider these recent findings:
- A PwC employee study found that nearly 60% of survey respondents reported that they would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis—a number that increased to 72% for employees under the age of 30. Additionally, more than 75% of respondents believed that feedback is valuable, and about 45% of respondents also valued feedback from their peers and clients or customers. Yet, less than 30% said they receive it.
- Leadership experts Zenger and Folkman’s study of 900 global employees found that 69% of respondents said they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized. Moreover, 92% of respondents agreed that when managers delivered constructive feedback properly, it was effective at improving performance.
- Management research firm CEB confirmed that 77% of HR execs believe performance reviews aren’t an accurate representation of employee performance.
That last stat is quite telling. Managers, today, do a lousy job of giving feedback and coaching throughout the year, then performance review time comes around and acts as a forcing function. Yet, even then they “fluff it up,” avoiding the tougher conversations that might unfold by offering an honest assessment.
Or worse, they tell you all the things they should have told you months ago! You get surprised. Your ratings are not as high as you think they should be. Then, any semblance of coaching arrives way too late for you to do anything about it. The toothpaste is already out of the tube…you can’t put it back in, and you’re left with a mess.
This really isn’t all that surprising. A recent study by CareerBuilder.com shows that a massive 58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training.Most managers in the workforce, today, are promoted due to their technical competence, not because they are innately capable of leading others. Making the people around them better requires a distinct set of skills that (typically) must be learned.
This is why after a decade of training managers in primarily Fortune 500 organizations, I’ve come to believe that the two most critical skills a manager must master are: 1) delivering feedback in a way that inspires learning and 2) coaching people to solve their own challenges. When done consistently well, great things happen. Individuals grow. Teams excel. Organizations thrive. Sure, managers need to be well-versed in a myriad of other skills as well. Yet, time and again, I keep reaching the same conclusion. Feedback and coaching is what separates the best from the rest.
Why? Well, the whole point of management is to help maximize organizational resources. People are every manager’s greatest resource. When a person receives timely, transparent, and relevant feedback, and is then coached on how to bring their highest-best-self to their work, they are being fully “maximized.” Not only do they deliver better results, but also they feel more engaged.
Still, easier said than done. It’s personally taken me the better part of my career to figure out how to artfully deliver feedback and coach people to their full potential. This is not exactly intuitive stuff! I want to help managers to expedite that learning curve, and here is the secret as I see it….
Okay, stop rolling your eyes. No, really, that’s it! All the skills of excellent feedback and coaching stem from these archetypical underpinnings. How you think determines your actions. When a manager learns to embody these values, his or her actions cannot fail but to inspire.
First, we must cultivate our Warrior Spirit and deliver performance feedback by recognizing our duty, finding our courage, and speaking with integrity.
Next, we must find our Servant’s Heart to coach others to their full potential. We do this by embracing humility, exercising empathy, and generating possibilities through curiosity.
In the coming months, I’ll be sharing more on how you can learn to bring more of your Warrior Spirit and a Servant’s Heart to your feedback and coaching skills. I invite you to hit the “follow” button so you can receive future blogs.
David understands how effective leadership generates success. A U.S. Army combat veteran and consultant to thousands of Fortune 500 managers, he is the Founder & Principal Consultant of The Leader Growth Group, a firm dedicated to creating self-aware leaders who inspire more engaged and productive workplaces. Get a copy of his book, “Growing Leaders: 20 Articles to Challenge, Inspire, and Amplify Your Leadership” by clicking here.
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